Eddie Murphy is bringing the holiday spirit he possesses in real life to the small screen.
His character Chris Carver is a Christmas enthusiast who loses his job and becomes obsessed with winning his street’s annual decorating contest, which is doling out a hefty prize. Tracee Ellis Ross plays Chris’ wife, Carol Carver, mother to their three kids with seasonally appropriate names: Holly, Nick and Joy.
Murphy has longed to do a Christmas movie and decided on "Candy Cane Lane" after toying with the idea of remaking a classic like “It's a Wonderful Life.”
“But then this script came along and it was like, ‘Hey, this has all the elements,’ ” he says.
New movies to stream for the holidays: From 'Candy Cane Lane' to 'Rebel Moon'
Chris thinks he’s one-upped the competition when he purchases a towering Twelve Days of Christmas tree for his yard from a very ill-intentioned elf named Pepper (Jillian Bell) but panic ensues when the characters from the carol come to life. As if having all those geese a-laying, lords a-leaping and pipers piping wasn’t chaotic enough, it turns out Chris overlooked some very important terms of sale on his receipt. With the help of his family, Chris hopes to make Christmas, once again, merry and bright.
The holiday film is inspired by screenwriter Kelly Younger's visits to the real Candy Cane Lane, a festive block in El Segundo, California, about 20 miles outside of Los Angeles. The movie also features David Alan Grier, Nick Offerman, Chris Redd and Robin Thede.
Off screen, Murphy, 62, shares his character’s zeal for the holiday.
“I really go all out on the Christmas decorations and stuff,” he says. “I've always loved Christmas. I have resources now to go over the top. We actually had to scale it back because last Christmas I went outside and looked around and I was like, ‘This is ridiculous' (laughing).” Wooden soldiers he estimates to be about 15 feet tall flanked the door. A giant tree greets guests when they enter his home.
“You know how most people’s Christmas tree, you get on the ladder and you go put the little star on the top?” Murphy says. “To put the star on the top, people have to come in and (use) a crane.”
Discover our 90+ feel-good favs: Where to find all the holiday favorites
Ellis Ross, the daughter of legendary singer Diana Ross and music executive Robert Ellis Silberstein, remembers her dad dressing as Santa when she was young.
“I recognized Santa as my dad and the whole thing started to fall apart,” Ellis Ross, 51, says. “They had to usher my dad out because I was trying to pull his beard off or something.”
She jumped at the chance to work with Murphy on "Candy Cane Lane" and found him to be “a delight.” “We both like to improv and we like comedy to come from what's true and what's real, as opposed to just trying to be funny.”
And the feature might not be the last time the actors work together they joke, as they playfully envision a remake of “Miracle on 34th Street,” released in 1947 (and redone in 1994). Their version would be called "Miracle on 134th Street" (referencing Harlem), and Santa would be Black.
“Very different Christmas movie,” Ellis Ross assesses. “That will be a holiday not classic.”
“134th Street, that's like 10 blocks from the Apollo Theater,” Murphy says. “But Santa Claus couldn’t be a brother because a brother can’t be sneaking in people's houses."
“No, no, no. You would get arrested,” Ellis Ross agrees, and the two continue to discuss details of how Santa would enter the homes.
“Actually, I think we have a movie here,” she says. “Thank you very much, but Eddie and I are going to work.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Candy Cane Lane' stars Eddie Murphy, Tracee Ellis Ross talk Christmas